Ed Miliband's interview with Russell Brand will appear later today. Photo:Getty
Show Hide image

Why Ed Miliband was right to be interviewed by Russell Brand

The Labour leader was interviewed by Brand for one simple reason: he's trying to get elected.


Should Ed Miliband do an interview with a publication that has slagged him off, saying the country deserves "better" than him? Should he do so despite a record of statements and actions towards women that are sexist and degrading? Should he ignore that it has, frequently, endorsed a way of doing politics to which he is firmly opposed? 

But enough about the Sun, what about Russell Brand? In both cases, there are risks as well as rewards, but just as the Sun's 1.9 million readers make reaching out to that paper, that Brand's YouTube channel has a million subscribers and a devoted following means that it makes sense for Miliband to do the same.

Of course, it may be that the interview turns out to be a car crash - the Labour leader has a tendency to pander to his crowd, whether that be on immigration or tax avoidance. The howls of the right-wing press are to be expected; what will trouble the Labour leader is if people to his left flank begin to probe into Brand's statements about women and his excessive personal wealth.

But who cares? Just five years ago Labour got their second lowest share of the vote since 1918. The Tories might not have won the 2010 election, but Labour certainly lost it. Labour's tent looks too small, not just for a majority in May but for the foreseeable future, unless its leadership can reach beyond it's traditional core. Even if it ends in tears, Miliband should be applauded for at least trying to turn things around.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.